Happy December-“It actually started with me and a couple of colleagues and friends looking enviously at the men and boys playing football”.

1We believe that you enjoyed reading our November blog. As part our December edition, we had an opportunity to catch up with Ruth Johnson, our Resources and Information Worker and Women and Girls’ Football Worker. She has been integral part of the team at FURD. She also coaches the women and girls football session that happens on Tuesday at The U- Mix Centre . Here is a quick read about our ‘Tuesday turn-up-and-play’ women and girls football session.

Since 2013, FURD has been running a free turn-up-and-play football session every Tuesday between 6-7 pm at the U-Mix Centre for women and girls, and over 140 people have been part of this programme. 

Share with our readers about-how it all started ?

It actually started with me and a couple of colleagues and friends looking enviously at the men and boys playing football on the beautiful new surface(3G football pitch at the U-Mix centre ) and wondering whether we were too old or whether we could still manage a kick about if we were gentle with each other! Another friend said she’d just had her first ever game of football in her 40s and was hooked but didn’t know where she could go to learn to play. So we tried offering a football session during our existing girls’ youth club slot on Tuesdays, and soon found we had a wonderfully diverse group of women and girls of different ages and ethnicity all playing and laughing together.

Why this session? and What makes it different from other regular football sessions?

We’ve tried to make it as inclusive as possible – it’s free, as we don’t want cost to be a barrier. We’ve particularly tried to attract people who aren’t  playing regular league football and groups that are particularly under-represented in football. That includes older women, BME(Black and Ethnic Minority ) women and girls, and those who find it hard to access clubs for various reasons including financial reasons. We don’t insist on conventional football kit and have had several Muslim players playing in hijabs and abayas. We get an unusually diverse mix of people which also helps achieve one of FURD’s aims of bringing people together to break down barriers and contribute to community cohesion.

What is your contribution as a youth worker or a football  coach to the girls?

Although I started the female football sessions as a volunteer, it soon became apparent that there was a job to do as a number of people were soon asking my advice about how to get involved in football at various levels. FURD paid for me to take my Level 1 coaching badge. After a year, we got some funding from the FA/Mars Just Play fund, and later from  BBC Children in Need. This funding  enabled me to work for 3 or 4 hours a week.

Now we’ve started a separate session on Saturday mornings for 7-15-year-olds as we found some of them don’t attend the 6:00pm session over winter when it’s dark. Sadly, many parents worry about their daughters being out after dark. I look out for other opportunities for our players to play or watch football –  we’ve entered a number of tournaments, had a women’s team  in a 5-a-side league last year, and taken several groups of girls to their first Sheffield United match when the club has kindly offered us free tickets.

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Share with us about Footballing Stories that you have come across during these sessions that FURD is making an impact in the society.

We’ve been proud to be part of the growth in football opportunities for female ‘veterans’ – usually classed as over 35s. There have long been opportunities for men of this age to play, but so far little for women. On 19th April 2015 we held what might have been the first tournament for women aged 35+. Four teams played in the 6-a-side competition with a total of 28 women taking part. Nine of the participants were over the age of 50, with the oldest being 61. Each team was allowed to field one younger player, meaning the total age range was 17 to 61. Some of the spectators present were there to watch their grandmas play football. Players were encouraged to sign up as individuals and teams were then allocated with an even age distribution in each side.

In March 2016 we entered the first national female veterans’ 5-a-side tournament to be held as part of the FA People’s Cup. 6 teams entered, we made it to the final, won very nice medals and featured in a BBC film about the tournament! We like to think this helped inspire others to get involved as in 2017 about 20 teams entered and we were knocked out in the group stage. We also had teams in the adult and under-14s categories.

Also in March 2016 we held a female football festival with a series of sporting, educational and cultural events including film screenings, talks and taster sessions.

Several of our players have taken their first steps into, or back into, football at our easy-going sessions and moved into more competitive football when their confidence and fitness has improved. We’ve developed links with AFC Unity, an alternative women’s football club playing in a local league, and so far seven of our players have progressed to play for them. Five of them are still involved including three who are defying age stereotypes by playing open-age league football in their 40s and 50s.

Among our younger players, one is now playing for Sheffield United under-15s and another is working as a football coach after doing lots of voluntary work for us.

We are always pleased to welcome new players of any age and ability – please get in touch, or just come along to our sessions.

For more information about this programme contact:  mehrun@furd.org.

Concept: Sijo Joseph

 

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“Belonging Group”- Refugees and Asylum Seekers sessions

Mrs Mehrun Ahmed

Welcome to our new blog channel, this platform will help our readers stay tuned to our stories.

As part of our first edition, we had an opportunity to have a chat with our coordinator Mehrun Ahmed about one of our successful programmes “Belonging Group”  that mainly focuses on working with ‘Refugees and Asylum seekers’

 

 

Q:Could you please share with our readers about the vision of the ‘Belonging Group’ and when it was started?

The Belonging group is central to FURDs (Football Unites-Racism Divides) work with Refugees and Asylum seekers. This was made possible in 2013 through the funding from the Big Lottery Research project. The main objective of the program is to help Refuge and Asylum seekers in the Sheffield area to integrate into new local communities and feel a sense of belonging. We deliver two sessions per week, on Wednesdays we have men’s football sessions and women have health and well-being sessions as well as have an opportunity to play football.  On Fridays we have a social club at the end of each session and there is a lunch arranged for the participants.

Q:Tell us more about the Men’s Football session.

Foremost, it’s very important for us as a community to understand the background of refugees and asylum seekers and their plight. They move into an uncharted territory of their life, where there is lack of personal identity, cultural and language barriers which prevail as a big threat for them to integrate into the community. This makes it difficult for them  to adapt to this new environment. In addition, poor physical and mental health, difficulties in communication skills and lack of regular income. Individuals may find it difficult to get a job due to lack of relevant skills or in some cases they might not be able to legally work.  All these factors have a direct impact on their confidence and self-esteem.

Our Belonging Football sessions have been a vital tool in breaking the chain of isolation and bring in a sense of belonging. A game of football brings in social interaction and people can get easily connected. We give each individual a safe space where they feel welcomed and are able to access leisure and sports activities, friendship, and a healthy free meal suitable for people of all cultural backgrounds. We provide them with a safe environment and same opportunities for the established communities and an opportunity to be themselves without being labelled. This has many positive outcomes for them as individuals and for the wider society.

Q:How do you follow-up each of these individuals that you are connected with through this football program?

There is a lack of recreation in their normal life so we keep involving them by giving an opportunity to turn up and play football in a supportive environment necessary for some Refugees and Asylum Seekers to feel comfortable. To take a step further, once they get involved into regular football sessions we provide football coaching with the aim of setting up a football team. As mentioned earlier they have all had a hard exile from their home so we need to give them space to share their stories and we also provide counselling session through our workers. If appropriate, we link them with like-minded organisations and partners to help if they face any other issues. We provide them with an opportunity to volunteer with FURD and also with other organisations and this a simple step to help them gain their confidence and have purpose to their normal day.

Q:How can someone who is reading this article help or get involved in your work?

Volunteer: If anyone wants to invest their time, the best way forward is to help us with our sessions which happens on Wednesdays and Thursdays. You don’t have to have any specific skill set, just an interest in people and building friendships.

Donate Food: Thanks to Fareshare, their partners Tesco and Asda have been supporting us by donating surplus food for our social gatherings. We would like more people to donate surplus food or sponsor for cooking some food for our sessions.

Raise Awareness and Conduct campaigns: We would like our local community to know more about Refugee and Asylum Seekers and support our work. We need to raise awareness and provide information about the struggles that Refugee and Asylum Seekers face in their lives. Our support workers are willing to host sessions  at your office or community gatherings to raise the profile.

Use our facilities: We manage the U- Mix centre at Asline Road on behalf of Sheffield City Council. We have many different facilities that people can use which helps to support our program.

For more information about this program contact:  mehrun@furd.org
Written by Sijo Joseph for Football Unites-Racism Divides.